Updated: Jan 30
In the past few months we’ve been chatting with musicians on Twitter, every week we start a thread about the different aspects in the life of an independent musician, but no thread caught fire like this one:
The comments on this thread were pure inspiration!
As an independent musician, you always need to find creative ways to transform your limited resources into amazing pieces of content.
Music videos are cornerstone content to help you grow your fanbase, but without the know-how, a big budget or a labels' help many musicians end up not filming them.
That’s not the way to go! Music videos are a powerful tool to connect with your audience and expand your reach.
Why are music videos so important you ask?
"Sound is important but it is just one element, If you put video to it, that changes the context of the music. It gives it an extra dimension. Also, people are more inclined to click on stuff that is visual.” - Simon Keene
Your music video is another side of your art - adding a visual layer to your music.
Social video generates 12 times more shares than text and images combined.
More than 500 million hours of videos are watched on YouTube each day. Why not tap into that with your amazing new clip? (Not sold yet? check more insane YouTube statistics here)
Major streaming services like Spotify create video centric features and they make an impact! Using Spotifys’ canvas feature increased streams by up to 120% and saves by up to 114%, in addition to lifts in artist profile visits and shares.
Now that you understand why making a music video is critical, It’s time to step up your video making game.
We had the pleasure to chat with 4 artists that went full independent and scored big.
So get your learning mode on - because from now on it’s all essential knowledge :)
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Space Chimney is the creation of a married couple from Long Island, New York. Our style is heavily sensitive to rock and electronic sounds, and chases the melancholic nostalgia of Vaporwave. Working with a mixture of live instrumentation, vocals and samples - we take inspiration from all genres to emotionally and digitally melt them into something new.
My name is Guillaume Blj a.k.a Atlas Castle. I’m a French musician, composer and electronic music producer, today based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Long sleepless nights, skills and a certain vision of aesthetics brought this project to life with the idea to create a musical base throughout which I could play whatever I would feel like, without any boundaries.
My name is Jeffrey Chan and I'm a singer/songwriter/producer from Sydney, Australia - and I just released my brand new EP 'FaultLine: AfterShock' on Fri 13 December 2019. My musical style falls into the overall general category of pop, but takes influences from a wide range of other genres (RnB, synthpop, dance, contemporary). Inspirations to my music include artists like Britney Spears, Lady Gaga to The Killers, Michael Buble, David Bowie, Zedd, and Calvin Harris. My sound can be best described as an amalgamation of pop influences and inspirations from the past 20-30 years mixed with modern songwriting/production techniques.
My name is Simone Silvestroni aka Minutes To Midnight, I’m originally from Italy, I’ve been living in the UK for the last ten years. My own music is currently in the rock/alternative rock genre, though in the past I have worked with many diverse styles. My next album will likely be more oriented towards a sophisticated (but not too much) pop-electronica.
My greatest inspirations are the 1973-1983 Pink Floyd, representing a legacy from my past listening choices, and Lana Del Rey.
You went full independent in your latest music clip, can you tell us about the creative process behind it?
Space Chimney - “System Bonanza”
The creative process behind this video was chaotic. It was our first music video, and we gave ourselves a hard and short deadline to get it completed. It started more systematic than creative, and also a little backwards.
We know we only have X, Y, and Z to work with - so what will be the best way to utilize them?
With the feel of the music in mind, we skimmed through roughly five thousand videos from cell phones, old art school projects and everything in between that we had saved up on hard drives. Anything that seemed to fit visually to the music got put into a SOURCE folder for our music video project.
Once we had our mess of files, we fired up a new After Effects project and started to throw things at the timeline to see where things went. The creative process then began to be about shaping a narrative and flow from a large amount of unrelated footage. This relied heavily on the processing and blending that we used to fuse the disparate clips together.
One problem we ran into was that all this footage we had was shot on different cameras, different resolutions, white balances and sizes.
To help jell these varying elements together, we used used a similar video layer to overlay on top of most of the timeline. This layer was footage of colorful screen banding (filming a computer monitor up close and focusing on the pixel distortions that occur). This helped to get all of our different footage to live in “the same world”.
Atlas Castle - “Dust”
Back then I was clearly in a phase where I realized that I was automatically jamming and reworking my songs over and over again with loops in a really electronic, dark and danceable way. “Dust” definitely had to be my next move and became the reason to start a whole new branding and visual approach
Simone Silvestroni - “Love Field”
Since the whole album is a concept revolving around a real-life story, I wanted “Love Field” to represent the human side of the day JFK was assassinated. Although I consumed a ton of content about it (both factual and not), I’m not interested in any politics around the event. The focal point of the song is this idea of a flight of fancy, imagining to be there, feeling what people in the crowd were feeling, or being in the motorcade, or even being close to the killer. And still, fantasizing about a different ending.
Jeffrey Chan - “Tell Me The Truth”
With all my music clips, I work independently from pre-production (conceptualizing the clip) through to directing and all the way down to editing.
Luckily, I've always worked together with one of my best friends (Nick), on creating concepts and helping me shoot the videos themselves. Usually when I'm writing new music, I have an idea of what the video clip would look like. For 'Tell Me The Truth', I wanted to let the music do the talking, so after doing some location scouting, we hired out a studio set and filmed a very 'conceptual'/metaphorical video. A lot of this clip was going to come together in post-production/editing, with the special effects.
How did you conceptualize the idea of the music clip?
"Everyone has their own way of generating concepts and what is going to work for them. That being said, experimentation is vital to figure out what works best for you." - Space Chimney
Usually as I write a song, I get a good general idea of whether it'll be a single and whether it'll have a music video. For songs that usually end up having a music video, I have a very clear concept from the get go. Whether I take a line and draw inspiration from that or I take a theme and build a world/story around that (see Breathe Heavy)
I didn’t, really. I’m not great with visualizing things beforehand. I know it sounds strange for someone who just wrote a concept album, but I’m strictly talking about images. In particular, video. Usually, if I’m the one who’s doing a video, I start with having a very rough idea. I tend to focus my attention on the main theme of the song, the essential concept. From there, I can slowly work around the before and after. In this case, I talked to Silvia and we decided to put the crowds at the very centre of the clip. The common people. That’s why I feel like the end result is exceptional: even when JFK and Jackie are exchanging greetings at the airport, or waving in the streets, the women, men and children around them are the real focal point.
I wanted to convey the stark contrast between the popularity of this couple and the senseless assassination that followed.
We conceptualized the idea from first focusing on the feel of the track. To us, the worlds that immediately come to mind are: transient, ethereal and movement. Since we didn’t shoot footage specifically for this video, we already knew we had to take a more abstracted angle to the narrative.
One common theme of the footage was that it was mostly personal to both our lives, since it was a collection from the time we met each other. While we didn’t intend for the video to be about us, it does represent our journey and path to how we got here. That is something we tried to express without making it too personal.
We think it’s important to note that this stage of the process is something that is going to be unique and personal to each creator. Everyone has their own way of generating concepts and what is going to work for them. That being said, experimentation is vital to figure out what works best for you.
I guess I wanted to try things out and experiment. I wanted the outcomes to be more virtual, abstract, a little epic and overall electronic.
What tools / skills you used in the creation of the video?
Computer: MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2016), 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7,16 GB 2133 MHz LPDDR3
File management and organization - this is something that got overlooked for many years that led to A LOT of unfinished work. Finished projects have hundreds and sometimes thousands of assets. The last thing you want to waste your time doing is trying to find something. It also becomes daunting to work around a mess and hard to concentrate. Label, color code, place and name things properly. You don’t need to be a perfectionist about this, but you need to make it workable for you. Also - keep a copy of every asset in your project folder in case you need to open it in the future. Unlinked and missing assets can be a major problem to replace!
Basic Video Editing Knowledge - Our knowledge of editing really isn’t anything spectacular. While there are lots and lots of tiny little buttons in After Effects, there are only a few we used to get this result. We’d like to note that we only used After Effects because we are the most familiar with the program workflow. We made a handy After Effects cheat sheet just for Mysphera:
I started the whole process with my Canon 7D to film random landscapes from Copenhagen. I then used the Glitché app from the Apple store to render my footage in an abstract, virtual and glitchy way. I then edited and clipped the whole video with Final Cut Pro.
For post-production I used Adobe Premiere Pro to edit the video, whilst any effects (the glitch effect and the smoke effect) were all done on After Effects.
We used Final Cut Pro X on macOS. We’re not really videographers, although we both worked in a video game company for years, and collaborated with an independent TV producer back in the days.
How did you learn these skills?
90% of our video editing knowledge came from learning how to use Ableton (any other DAW would apply). Editing music and videos is a very similar thing on the base level - you are dealing with source material that changes over time. - Space Chimney
I think we learned the basics by watching colleagues doing their thing. Personally speaking, a few things are in common with working with a DAW.
I’ve worked with photography and videography for the last 15 years now, and have been learning and improving my skills through the years by working with bands and professionals here and there. I’ve also spent hours watching tutorials and reviews on youtube on “How to...”. - Peter McKinnon is one of my latest crush.
I have always been self-taught in these skills - a lot of which came down to trial and error and actually just experimenting with the programs themselves. However if there's things that I'm not too sure of how to do, I usually jump straight onto YouTube for a video tutorial.
90% of our video editing knowledge came from learning how to use Ableton (any other DAW would apply). Editing music and videos is a very similar thing on the base level - you are dealing with source material that changes over time.
Once this realization happened for us, it became like a very AHA! moment. Key frames are exactly the same as automation. Cuts and transitions are exactly the same as going between musical sections. Blending is exactly the same as placing a reverb on an instrument.
We learned these skills from experimenting, collaborating with other artists, YouTube tutorials for specific problems and a few university classes on film production. Nothing however replaces hands on learning, and you really have to touch every button for yourself to see and understand what it does.
It’s hard to point to a specific resource since we are largely self taught, but Reddit has some really great communities for musicians and visual artists that are (mostly) happy to answer questions or provide tutorials on their process. The best advice we could give would be to find these online communities in the area you are working and there will definitely be more information than you can process.
One very important thing is to not be afraid of trying new things. Everything comes with practice, and some things will take more than others.
What are a few tips you can give to a musician making his first music video?
Remember, you don't have a budget like what you see on MTV - if you can execute simple videos well - they will look just as good! - Jeffrey Chan
The “first” of anything can be a very frightening prospect for people. This was our first video and Space Chimney actually started as a test band because we were too nervous to commit to another name we had saved up!
What we learned is the following:
Focus on the why - not the how. You’re doing this because you love music and need to expand it into something visual. You can get lost forever in the how but the why will always have a simple answer.
Stay open and embrace change. The idea you started with will likely not be the finished product. Enjoy every second of being on that road and seeing where it takes you.
Be patient and be practical. Unfortunately life only gives us 24 hours a day and so many resources to work with, which will be different for all of us. Big projects don’t get finished in a day and we might not have all the things we want to do them. The goal is to do the best with what you have - you will go crazy if you push the walls in on yourself.
Collect all the footage you can and archive it. This is something that really helped us, because you never know when it might come in use. If you work a lot with producing visual content, having your own stock library is a great thing to be able to pull from when needed.
Give yourself a deadline. Things can very easily stay in the idea stage forever, and you can get lost in editing attempting to achieve perfection. If you can discipline yourself, you are guaranteed a finished project.
Something I've learnt that I wish I could've told myself when I was making my first music video is that simplicity is your best friend. When you're working as an independent musician to create your first music video, the important thing is to not think too broadly.
Remember, you don't have a budget like what you see on MTV - if you can execute simple videos well - they will look just as good!
Take time to learn and master your tools at first (camera settings, editing programs...). It will take a little bit of time and dedication, but you’ll definitely save hours of work and edits in the long run. Plus you’ll be more confident with the process.
“Learning By Doing” is one of my mottos, I can only recommend you to read about your camera, techniques, tools... YouTube is a fantastic place to watch tutorials, to learn, to experiment and then find your own touch.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and reach people. I often bring friends while shooting, to get ideas flowing. It’s nice to have your own vision on a project. But sometimes random inputs can definitely save the day. Plus you’ll never film too much footage.
Be prepared to wear different hats. You don’t want to waste people’s time and your own time either while filming.
Focus on the story, on the message, and try not to be too didactic about it. Also, keep it simple, do not throw too many effects or transitions just because they might look cool.
What video making hacks / tricks can you give to a musician with a tight budget?
Don’t underestimate the quality of your phone if you need extra footage video. On a low budget, try some apps out! Some of them are really decent, intuitive and free, so why not give it a go? - Atlas Castle
Use whatever comes with your operating system, and learn it at your best. For macOS users, try iMovie and exploit everything it can offer to you. You might be surprised of the things you can do with it.
It’s 2020 and even a basic smart phone can put together a music video if you really want it to. What matters most is your intention, ideas and execution.
Minus the equipment we already had (computer, software and whatever cameras created the footage), this video cost $0 aside from our time. Media production can be as costly or as cheap as you want - but in the end anything creative will involve some kind of investment.
No one is going to have a Hollywood budget starting out. Something to do would be to simplify your ideas into a more practical application that you can afford. For example, your starting idea is to make a music video about a man traveling to Mars. Simplify down to a man traveling somewhere else and get creative with what you have, keeping the intention that inspired your big budget idea.
If you are reading this, you probably have enough equipment already.
Do not let budget stop you from creating, work with what you have!
The lights from your phone can definitely help you out in some situations where the low lights are tricky to work with.
Don’t underestimate the quality of your phone if you need extra footage video.
On a low budget, try some apps out! Some of them are really decent, intuitive and free, so why not give it a go?
Last but not least, remember to enjoy the process and have fun with it as well. No matter what, you’ll learn and improve your skills all the way through.
Simple studio set-ups work well along with a lot of tight shots if you're working with a tight budget. As mentioned, it's probably best to stick to one location if possible and to really let the song shine on it's own, with the video being a simple accompaniment.
How do you promote your music video once it’s out?
I usually push a video out along with a new single release. Sharing on all forms of social media and building a good and engaging content calendar around the single/video release is a great way to go about it. If you know how, run social media ads (Facebook and YouTube work best) to engage potential audience and get them interested!
We promoted our video through Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, our website www.spacechimney.com and word of mouth. While our numbers might not seem like much - our Twitter promotion did get our song played on a local radio station in Austin, Texas within our first week.
Promotion and marketing are topics that we are easily the least knowledgeable on - but are arguably more important than the music itself. You could write the greatest song in all of history but it won’t matter if you can’t deliver it to an audience.
Some advice to give here would be similar to our answer on where we learned our skills. Find online communities that are focused on your genre and start there. Get a regular schedule of posting material and content online to let people know you exist. This is something we’ve overlooked for years and it will stop you from getting heard. If you don’t want to do it yourself - you will have to get someone to do it for you. You will be creating material for yourself if you don’t get it out there.
You can start by asking your circle of family of friends to share your content online or by word of mouth. It definitely will take time for 99.9% of people to gain any recognition. Treat it as a seed that needs to grow. One good thing about lacking recognition (yes, there is a positive here) - is that it is a lot more forgiving when you make mistakes. This will give you some time to learn from them,
and avoid more serious consequences if you actually had a following that your livelihood depended on.
Right before releasing the video, I’d always try to raise awareness before the momentum about what’s coming with teasers and by reaching out to blogs in order to get the video to be premiered.
Once the video is out - I’d generally send over 100 mails to blogs, use SubmitHub and create running ads over Facebook, Instagram and Youtube to generate views, interest and maybe new potential fans and curious souls.
My last move will be to reach out and get the help of the positive and genuine community I’m hanging out with over the internet. Any Netvio members reading this? I appreciate every single one of you guys.
I have a manager, so together with him, we run campaigns on various mediums, especially social media. Don’t forget Reddit!
And that's a wrap!
Hopefully you are now equipped with the needed knowledge to create the perfect video for your music. Once you finish your first clip be sure to submit it to us!